Google upgrades its cloud platform

Google App Engine and its SDK get boosts for real-time communications and high availability

Google will upgrade on Thursday its Google App Engine cloud platform and its software development kit, adding capabilities for real-time communications and increased data replication.

The company will roll out Google App Engine 1.4.0, the latest version of the company's platform-as-a-service cloud for developing and deploying Java and Python applications. Featured in version 1.4.0 is Channel API, providing a service allowing applications to push notifications out to the browser. "It allows you in real time to communicate out of the browser," instead of having JavaScript polling the application, said Sean Lynch, product manager for Google App Engine. Events can be pushed to a browser as they happen. "Channel API makes it really easy for new and existing applications to immediately use that sort of functionality," Lynch said.

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For high availability in enterprise or SaaS applications, a High Replication Datastore capability expands replication capabilities. As many as four copies of data can be maintained instead of the current two-datastore limit. Performance will be a bit slower, and this service costs a little more as an add-on, Google said. Pricing details will be made available when High Replication Datastore is generally available in about a month.

App Engine 1.4.0's improved task cue capability, meanwhile, expands the time that services like indexing and processing can be run. "You have a lot more leeway into running long-running tasks in the background," said Lynch. The previous limit of 30 seconds for background tasks has been expanded to 10 minutes. Also, the size of URLFetch requests, in which an application can request something like an image from another website, has been expanded from 1MB to 32MB.

An Always On capability in version 1.4.0 enables reservation of application instances to ensure live instances of an application at all times. This addresses latency issues and is an alternative to on-demand application instances, which are provided when requests come in.

App Engine 1.4.0 is "huge," said Matt Mastracci, CTO of App Engine user Gripe. The company provides complaint resolution services for mobile and Web users. "For us, the big [features] are High Replication Datastore, which means we never go down for maintenance," and the Always On capability, he said. Always On prevents users from ever having to wait for an instance of the application.

Google App Engine made its debut in April 2008 and hosts about 150,000 active applications per week. "We're now seeing about 1 billion page views per day," Lynch said.

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